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Kaylan Pinson

Mrs. Intawiwat

English 111

15 April 2016

Ethnography: Rise of Sports Industry

The sports industry is arguably one of the most popular industries within the

entertainment realm. It has undergone exponential growth within the past fifty years or so and

has created an entire sub culture within entertainment as well as an important facet within

consumerism. As a musician who is only partially involved in this culture, I have become curious

as to how and why there has been such significant growth within this facet of the entertainment

industry. In order to study this culture more closely I conducted an ethnographic approach in

attempts to study the actions, influences, and ideas of sports fans regarding its position in our

culture. Through this I hope to obtain information and potentially determine if such success has

been determined primarily by internal or external influences.

During the early summer season there are many opportunities to observe sports culture.

There are events such as the NBA finals, Stanley Cup finals (NHL), and even other events such

as the world cup. I began this project by observing at a sports bar in Matthews, NC called

Kristophers bar and grille. The specific night was a Thursday on an NBA finals game night. I

initially began by taking notes on how the bar was designed and set up. There were easily about

twenty televisions in the room each of which were positioned next to another. The majority of

them had the NBA finals game on, but some had other sporting events such as a Womens track

and field event. A handful of other televisions were showing the current game of the Womens

world cup as well. It was obvious that the NBA game was the primary selling point of the night.
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The sound of the sports announcers was playing over the speakers rather than music or any of the

other games that were being broadcasted. What was surprising to me was that I knew of many

baseball games that were on but there were no broadcasts of it at the restaurant. Given that

Baseball is considered Americas pass time, I figured it would be broadcasted along with any

other sport within the restaurant. However I believe that the magnitude of the NBA finals game

as well as the international following with the FIFA Womens World Cup would lead to their

precedence over a Baseball game.

The entire bar was cluttered with flags and pennants of different Universities as well as

professional teams. Most of the professional franchises that were represented were American

football teams. If there wasnt sports paraphernalia on the wall there were advertisements for

different types of alcohol, primarily beer.

I then began to move my attention to observing the actions of the customers within the bar. I

noticed that most people who seemed to be paying attention to the game were at the bar with a

large group of friends. Almost every person was also partaking in alcohol consumption. There

were a few people wearing basketball jerseys, almost all of which were the jersey of LeBron

James who was in the finals playing for Cleveland against the Golden State Warriors. Other

people sat at tables and watched the games periodically but were more focused on the people

they were with or the technology they had available. These people seemed to be there more for

the social aspect and the food because the majority of these customers left the restaurant after

paying their tabs. Most people that fit within this category were couples or customers who were

not paying much attention to the game. A large amount of people left right at half time, leading

me to believe that they were going to continue watching the game at a different venue.
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I then became interested in observing the game itself and how certain aspects of the

broadcast were presented. On almost every television screen there were status reports of other

games and players that were going on at the same time. This was true on every network except

for the NBA screen. Every commercial for the NBA game was either for Nissan, bud light, or

sprint all of which were obvious sponsors of the game and network. Other commercials were for

products using athletes as endorsements, movies that include athletes such as LeBron James in

train wreck, and other miscellaneous advertisements for shows that were produced by the

network. Each time the game came back on the cameras usually focused on one player when the

clock was paused between plays. Nine times out of ten this player was LeBron James.

Regardless of what was happening in the game the focus was on James. Even if he was just

sitting on the bench he was typically always the central focus. Is LeBron one of the main selling

points for the NBA? Or is he simply just that good of a player to create almost an obsession

within the media and the consumers? These questions began arising and created a curiosity in me

to determine what the central focus of the sports culture is and what role each aspect of the

industry plays. Through research I want to determine if sports fans follow their sport for specific

players, the franchise, the social aspects, or the love of the game itself?

After some interviews and research I found many different perspectives regarding the

role of the athlete. I decided to interview three subjects two of which are members of the culture

that are not far removed from being athletes themselves. Both of these students are rising college

freshmen. One student is a former Lacrosse player named Alpha and the other is a former

basketball player named Charlie. I felt this would create two perspectives from different types of

athletes that would be much closer to the sport due to their recent experience. Alpha claims

Kids can play the games and find role models at the professional level and want to grow to be
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just like them. Charlie spoke about how in watching sports; you can try what you see your

favorite athlete does. Each of these responses paints the athletes as an image of something a

young spectator would desire to become. Because these students still hold their own athletic

career very close, they seem to idolize athletes hoping to better themselves with a professional

example. I believe the networks could be manipulating this perspective by filming mainly

popular players such as LeBron James.

For another interview I spoke with an adult who had been a member of the culture for at

least thirty years named Bravo. I found that there are a few different trends that explain why

adults who are much more removed from the activity, also enjoy participating even if it may be

more relevant to a younger age group. I love when we have Monday night football here in

Charlotte and there is such a buzz in the city. People are nicer to each other even. When I was in

college it was exciting to go to the games because everyone was there. It just kind of added to

your life to be a part of something big. This statement provided a perspective on how sports

provide a type of unity that can bring a community together. A home-team event creates a

commonality between people that wouldnt normally interact. This leads to a type of comradery

that consists of members rooting together for a common outcome. The adult focus isnt

necessarily on the individual players but the social aspect of the game and its positive impact on

a residential community.

All in all the players role isnt terribly different from any other entertainers role.

Entrepreneurs who earn money by providing sports as a form of entertainment hire professional

athletes as performers. These athletes are compensated to provide the best entertainment possible

by training and learning to play the game at a top-notch ability level (Haupert, 2006, p. 195). It is
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amazing that something that was meant for purely entertainment purposes has evolved into a

large part of American culture. This is even true with other countries with international sports

such as soccer and the even the Olympics.

Arguably, the biggest factor that has contributed to the growth of the industry is the

accessibility to the entertainment (Beck and Bosshart, 2003, p. 23). No matter where or at what

time, there is always some kind of sporting event being broadcasted on a network or live stream

somewhere. During Charlies interview he stated that, If you want to truly follow ESPN or any

sports team you have to have a twitter account. Its a quick way to get in touch with other fans,

hear news, and know what kind of things your team is doing. In this day and age it has become

easier than ever to gain access to players, teams, and games that use to seem so far a way and

almost untouchable. This gives people in the general public a chance to be a part of a franchise as

well as find ways to relate to a famous athlete through various forms of communication. In my

own industry, opportunities such as this dont typically occur. In most circumstances a trained

musician typically separates himself from the general public. The only access to this musician is

by professional means only. As a result there is definitely less of a social following within the

music industry compared to the sports industry.

Social media and the sports industry have evolved into a type of symbiotic relationship

(Haupert, 2006, p. 201). This relationship has created an aspect of sports marketing known as the

relationship-marketing process. The goals of relationship marketing are to build relationships

with the organizations best customers, generating further business and profit. It is also designed

to contribute to strengthening brand awareness, increase understanding of consumer needs, and

provide additional value for consumers (Williams and Chinn, 2010, pp. 425-426). Informal
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social media applications such as twitter and Facebook allow consumers to play a central role in

producing, designing, publishing, or editing content and together create an interactive

environment that is appealing to the general consumer. Other applications such as score center

produce constant sport updates and statistics readily available at the hand of the consumer. Even

networks like ESPN and sports center always provide entertainment in critiquing and analyzing

games as well as predicting future outcomes of tournaments and games.

The sports industry has served as one of the strongest marketing fields within the

entertainment industry. Not only that, but it has become one of the largest aspects of American

culture because of the tactical use of social media and marketing. Each method of delivery has

proven to appeal to multiple members of society with different backgrounds. Compared to other

facets of the entertainment industry, sports have taken one of the top seats in applying current

trends to their strategy. If other entertainment industries learned to incorporate this approach, I

believe the following of each industry would increase exponentially because of its appeal to

multiple levels of society.


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Works Cited
Beck, D., & Bosshart, L. (2003). Sports and media. Communication Research Trends, 22(4).

Retrieved from: www. Humankinetics.com

Haupert, M. J. (2006). The entertainment industry. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. Williams,

J., & Chinn, S. J. (2010). Meeting relationship-marketing goals through social media:

A conceptual model for sport marketers. International Journal of Sport Communication, 3(4),

422-437. Retrieved from: www.thepdfportal.net